The Sky's the Limit for Skyline's C.A.S. Clubs10/27/2023
Bird watching, Lego robotics, gardening, mindful art, coding, running and walking, the high-stakes world of self-governance. It’s all in a morning’s work for the students of Skyline K-8, where every Wednesday begins with participation in one of the school’s many C.A.S. clubs.
“C.A.S.” stands for “Creativity. Activity. Service.”, three key components of the International Baccalaureate program’s whole child curriculum, but, according to the young members of Mr. Fanning’s gardening club, an even more accurate acronym might be “F.U.N.”
“My favorite part about gardening club is how you get to make new friends and talk and run around and plant things and get out in the sun,” said second grader Cadron Eastin. “It’s cool, too, when you get to wait patiently for the flowers to grow.”
“I like that my best friend, Omar, is in it,” said kindergartener Harry Denison.
The quarterly clubs are meant in part to give the students of Skyline, none of whom are able to walk to school, access to the kind of horizon-expanding experiences that extra-curricular activities offer. They also allow young students to mix with older ones and provide teachers the opportunity to interact with and mentor children of all grade levels.
“I find it really joyful to see kindergarteners through eighth graders come together for a common purpose,” said Principal Sherry Malone. “Our school is small and relatively close-knit, but even so, before we launched this program, a lot of our students didn’t know each other’s names. We hope that these activities change that and that everyone will know each other.”
Middle school social studies and language arts teacher Michael Fanning, who runs the gardening club with the help of parent volunteer Allie Novak, said one of the pleasures of the C.A.S. club program is definitely the chance to spend quality time with younger students. Another is the nature of gardening itself.
“Students really get to understand that the earth is alive, just as they are alive,” Fanning said. “It’s also great that we get to work together on a project with a long-term goal and result. Gardening doesn’t give you instant gratification. You have to wait weeks, sometimes months, to see the fruits of your labor, and that’s an important lesson for kids.”
Teachers choose the bulk of the club topics, but students aren’t shy about asking for ones they want as well.
“That’s how we got the Dungeons and Dragons club,” Malone said. “It’s pretty popular, and I think that’s a great side effect of this program – students are learning how to advocate for themselves.”
Skyline students are clearly getting quite the education at their C.A.S. clubs, but, the fact is, we could all stand to learn something from them. Consider the student council club, which brings together fourth through eighth graders for an experiment in direct democracy.
Eva Breen, an eighth grader, serves as student council president and said the age diversity of the club is one of its greatest strengths.
“We get so many different viewpoints and priorities, which is really great,” Breen said. “This is a 100 percent student-led organization. We have secretaries and treasurers and vice presidents and everyone learns from each other and every voice is heard. We vote on everything. It’s a total democracy, and so far, it’s all smooth sailing. We’re really cohesive and dedicated to making our school a better place.”